Article written by 2014 DPDF Immigrants and their Homeland Connections: Transnationalism in Historical Perspective Research Director Roger Waldinger: 


Reacting to migrants’ many, ongoing involvements with their home communities, sending states
have increasingly adopted policies designed to resolve the problems of citizens living abroad
and to respond to expatriates’ search for engagement, doing so in ways that best meet home
state leaders’ goals. This paper seeks to understand the factors shaping this interaction between
sending states and emigrants abroad by studying two contrasting aspects of the Mexican
experience – expatriate voting, a relatively new development, and provision of the matrícula
consular, a long-standing component of traditional consular services, though one that has recently
been transformed. Focusing on the complex set of interactions linking migrants, sending states,
and receiving states, the paper identifies the key differences and similarities between these two
policies. Both policies suffered from a capacity deficit inherent in sending state efforts to connect
with nationals living in a territory that the home country cannot control; both also generated conflict
over membership and rights. Nonetheless, Mexico’s efforts to resolve the immigrants’ identification
problems in the receiving society proved useful to millions; by contrast, a tiny proportion of
emigrants took advantage of the first opportunity to vote from abroad. These diverging experiences
demonstrate that sending states can exercise influence when intervening on the receiving society
side, where the embeddedness of the immigrant population provides a source of leverage. By
contrast, the search to re-engage the emigrants back home encounters greater difficulties and
yields poorer results, as the emigrants’ extra-territorial status impedes the effort to sustain the
connection to the people and places left behind. In the end, the paper shows that extension to
the territory 3of another state yields far more constraints than those found on home soil as well
as unpredictable reactions from receiving states and their peoples, not to speak of nationals who
no longer perceive the migrants as full members of the society they left.

Publication Details

The Politics of Cross-Border Engagement: Mexican Emigrants and the Mexican State
Waldinger, Roger
Springer Science and Business Media
Publish Date
September 2014
Waldinger, Roger, The Politics of Cross-Border Engagement: Mexican Emigrants and the Mexican State (Springer Science and Business Media, September 2014).